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Report: Possible PFAS Chemical-Discharge Sites Top 2,500

In 2017, North Carolina residents discovered that Chemours, a spin-off of DuPont, had been dumping PFAS into the Cape Fear River near its Fayetteville plant for decades. (Wikimedia Commons)
In 2017, North Carolina residents discovered that Chemours, a spin-off of DuPont, had been dumping PFAS into the Cape Fear River near its Fayetteville plant for decades. (Wikimedia Commons)
April 15, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Almost 70 companies or plants in North Carolina are among those likely releasing chemicals known as PFAS into the air and water of nearby communities. A new map of suspected industrial discharge sites includes more than 2,500 nationwide.

Chemical companies, carpet makers, commercial printers, plastics manufacturers and others use PFAS in their products or processes. Scott Fabor, senior vice president for the Environmental Working Group, said local residents have no way of knowing what kinds of chemicals, or how much they might be exposed to.

"What's even more troubling than EPA's failure to require disclosure of these charges has been EPA's failure to subject any of these discharges to limits under the federal Clean Water Act or federal Clean Air Act," Fabor said.

PFAS comprise thousands of man-made chemicals used to make such common products as fast-food packaging, dental floss and nonstick cookware. There is mounting evidence that the compounds are toxic to human health, and they've been linked to cancer, and kidney and thyroid disease.

David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, said his colleagues combed through two Environmental Protection Agency databases to pinpoint the new sites, but added that the tally doesn't include other potential sources of PFAS contamination, such as local waste systems.

"We now have decades of different types of landfills," he said. "Some are lined, some are not lined. We're seeing both groundwater contamination, as well as an unregulated waste stream that goes to waste water treatment plants. So, this is a significant issue."

Earlier this year, the U.S. House passed the PFAS Action Act, which would set deadlines for the EPA to determine how to regulate industrial discharges of PFAS under the Clean Water Act. However, the bill has since stalled.

The EWG analysis is online at ewg.org, and the bill, HR 535, is at congress.gov.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC